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Army moves to oust officer who made jokes on TikTok about Nazi concentration camps

The TikTok app on a smartphone. (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg News)
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An Army general has determined that a junior officer who joked about the Nazi incineration of Jews in comments on the social media app TikTok should be ousted from the service, a service spokesman said on Monday.

Second Lt. Nathan Freihofer, an artillery officer who has 3.8 million followers on the social media site, had been under investigation for months and was removed from his position with the 3rd Infantry Division, of Fort Stewart, Ga., in August.

Lt. Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the commander of the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, found that Freihofer’s statement was “inconsistent with the values of Army service and inappropriate for anyone in a position of leadership over American Soldiers,” said Army Col. Joseph Buccino, a service spokesman.

“As a result, last month the Corps commander initiated the process of removing Freihofer from the Army,” Buccino said in a statement.

Kurilla’s decision was informed by discussions with other Army officials and a review of all matters related to Freihofer’s comments and military service, the statement said. Freihofer still has an opportunity to present a final argument on his own behalf within the next two weeks, Buccino added.

Freihofer’s comments, which were posted in August, were later removed by TikTok.

Freihofer did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

An Army official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Freihofer already had been reprimanded by another commander at a lower level of supervision. The decision was then forwarded up to Kurilla, who took additional action.

The video was posted weeks after senior defense officials promised they were looking into bias and prejudice in the military. After the police killing of George Floyd in May, then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said the military was “not immune” to them.

Freihofer also has 367,000 followers on Instagram. Since he posted his comments about the Holocaust in August, he has gained nearly 1 million additional followers on TikTok.

On Wednesday, thousands of people marched on the home of Congress at the direction of President Trump, including some military veterans. Some of the mob beat police officers and burst into the building, stating baseless beliefs that Trump beat President-elect Joe Biden in the election.

The group included some people who openly have espoused white supremacy. Veterans and active-duty troops also were present in Charlottesville in 2017 during a gathering that included white supremacists.

A Defense Department panel said in a report released last month that the espousing of extremist views within the military needed to be better addressed. It recommended an update to the Uniform Code of Military Justice to do so.